Durrow, Book of

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In Trinity College, Dublin, a richly decorated vellum codex of the four Gospels, with Vulgate text and Old Latin Prefaces, written and decorated in the province of the Columban mission in Northumbria or Ireland, c. 675; 248 folios, 9½ by 6 inches in size. The Book of Durrow is the sole representative of a crucial phase in the development of Hiberno-Saxon art and the first manuscript to show the decorative structure characteristic of the later Insular Gospel books such as lindisfarne and kells. Pages devoted to symbols of the Evangelists and pages of pure ornament mark the opening of the codex and precede each Gospel. Beginnings of texts carry enlarged decorative initials or monograms. The ornamentation, expert and assured, is close to the Celtic and Saxon metalwork of the middle of the century. It includes interlace, Celtic curvilinear designs, animal ornament, and rectilinear cellwork patterns; ornamental letters are outlined with red dots. The different groups of ornament are not yet intermixed as in the mature Hiberno-Saxon style and the script is not yet of the developed Insular ornamental majuscule form.

See Also: manuscript illumination.

Bibliography: Codex Durmachensis, ed. a. a. luce et al., 2v. (New York 1960). s. f. h. robinson, Celtic Illuminative Art in the Gospel Books of Durrow, Lindisfarne and Kells (Dublin 1908).

[r. l. s. bruce-mitford]